A new entry in the Omicron Matter – Conflicts of Interest. Edward Wayland has only the tiniest amount of freedom and that is only when he is alone in his hotel room. Neville is primping for an evening with the others but Edward is choosing to stay behind. He is tired of doing what people tell him to do, but there is little choice at this point.
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Edward Wayland in his hotel room
Edward Wayland stared at the ceiling as he lay on the bed. He was not chained to the bed which was a small improvement. They were in Southampton now. He could try to run. He had tried on Skilly. He had hid on the island for a day. But then the collar performed its magic. The jolts started small and came hourly. Then the intensity and frequency began to increase. After three days he crawled back to the cottage begging for it to stop. He would have done anything to make it stop and he did.
After some nominal obedience, he got the reward cycles. But the humiliation Winifred and Smith made him suffer for those moments made the pleasure taste sour. He tried to escape once more. The second time he tried a more permanent escape. He had gotten within sight of the high cliffs of the island when he received a jolt so strong he passed out. He awoke to see Smith staring at him. Smith said nothing and left the room without administering any pain. The humiliation stopped, but Smith shocked him for the slightest transgressions. He was given rewards only for real cooperation and he gave precious little of that. He learned to be mostly silent and expressionless in Smith’s presence. He passively executed requests but displayed no enterprise beyond that.
Neville was in the room with him. He was pomading his hair and humming. As Neville tied his tie, he called over his shoulder at Edward, “If you were the least cooperative, it would make life so much easier …for everybody.”
Edward stared at the ceiling and said, “I do everything I am asked to do.”
Neville grunted and undid the tie to start again. He said, “And nothing more. Camille’s drones display more initiative than you.”
Edward responded with a smile, “Camille’s drones have more freedom than I do.”
Neville finished the tie and said in protest, “You would have more freedom if you just cooperated.”
Edward looked at Neville and then went back to staring at the ceiling and asked, “Neville, why do you cooperate so much? Is the pleasure cycle that good? I’ve gotten some. They are good, but not that good. This doesn’t feel like you are being trained anymore. You’ve switched over somehow. Why?”
Neville stuttered and said, “How can you ask that? Winifred, Findley you and I have always the group. The one everyone wanted to be a part of. ”
Edward smiled at the ceiling, “Even John O’Malley. You forgot him, but then I always did as well.” Edwards sat up and looked at Neville and said, “You could have been great at electronics. Now we know how important that is. But now you’re biggest worry seems to be pleasing the masters and the mistress. You follow Smiths, Findley’s and Winifred’s whims like they are the golden path. What happened to Neville?”
Neville straightened his coat and looked at his shoes and then said, “Maybe the Neville you are thinking of never was. Winifred is sheer genius with small works. You were brilliant in chemistry. Findley was a master in physics when he bothered to apply himself. Even John was great in hydraulics. I was always second rate. Winifred, Findley and Smith have me do things and I am learning. I’m useful to them.”
Edward said, “Bollocks. Smith and Morgaine have found the cream of the crop. Between those two, they have picked the top of the class. And Mr. Carter-Fraser that includes you. Your knowledge of electronics is invaluable right now – more than my chemistry or Winifred’s small mechanical works. Only Findley Brown’s expertise might be more import, but he is a lazy sot. Don’t forget that.”
Neville said softly, “Even John O’Malley seemed to fit better than me.”
Edward replied, “That’s because he was selling himself out, just as you are doing now. But he still had enough of himself left that occasionally he let us know he wasn’t all that grateful to be in our presence.” Edward looked down for a second as he thought and said, “In a sense, I understand that he was using us, but it was to better himself. And we liked the fawning. Findley and Winifred certainly seem to like your fawning. Smith is getting an electronics expert. Ask yourself what you are getting out of this deal. Because they are using you. You need to decide if you are ok with that.”
Neville stayed quiet.
Edward leaned back on the bed and said, “I won’t be used. So no, I won’t be cooperating even if hurts a bit. Give Winifred, Findley and the toys my regards.”